Dear BCB Readers,
Because of the positive response that I received from my Roster Analysis of the Iowa Cubs (and because I learned so much in the process), I decided to do a similar analysis for the Cubs AA club, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx.
If you didn't get to read my diary about Iowa (or if you want to read again-- and just for fun I added a poll on each diary) click here:
For Iowa Cub Position Players:
For Iowa Cub Pitchers:
The Pitching Staff
Federico Baez, RHP (24 yrs, 11 months)
2-0, 2.20 ERA
32.2 IP, 25 H, 8 ER, 2 HR, 8 BB, 27 K
Drafted by the Cubs in the 42nd Round in 2000, Baez began the year at Iowa, but was demoted after struggling at AAA (5 HRs, 5.06 ERA in 21 IP). He has pitched much better in his second tour of duty at West Tenn (4.58 ERA in 55 IP in 2005) but, at nearly 25, he is pitching a little above the age of his competition.
Baez (who pitched for Puerto Rico in the World Games) has improved his BB/9 (2.21) and K/9 (7.45) rates this season, so his front-line stats seem legit enough through the first part of the season at West Tenn.
Baez has started 4 games this season (out of a total of 27 appearances), but is mostly a career reliever (187 out of his career 193 games are in relief).
Bobby Brownlie, RHP (25 yrs, 9 months)
2-7, 6.90 ERA
45.2 IP, 68 H, 35 ER, 5 HR, 19 BB, 36 K
Something seems to be wrong with Brownlie. Drafted as the Cubs' number one pick out of Rutgers in 2002, Brownlie has been a controversial player for several years. He did well in his first season at High-A Daytona (3.00 ERA in 66 IP) and in his first tour of West Tenn (3.36 ERA in 147 IP). He struggled some at Iowa in 2005 (4.74 ERA in 104 IP), but not anywhere near the degree that he's struggled in 2006.
Brownlie began 2006 at Iowa and was hit hard in just under a dozen innings (10.80 ERA, 4 HR). He was demoted to West Tenn and has really struggled in his repeat tour of AA. And while he's keeping the ball in the park (0.99 HR/9), he's giving up a whopping 13.42 H/9.
He's bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen this season, not finding much success in either place. There have been rumblings that he's pitching with an injury, which seems like a logical explanation though his K/9 numbers don't seem very different than in years past.
At almost 26 years old, it seems like Brownlie needs to make sense of his struggles or he will very likely be one of the biggest busts in recent Cubs' draft history.
Edward Campusano, LHP (24 yrs, 0 months)
0-0, 3.48 ERA
10.1 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 14 K
Signed as a free-agent out of Venezuela, Campusano began the season as High-A Daytona's closer and freaking blew people away. In just under 30 IP, Campusano struck out 47 batters (14.29 K/9), posting a 1.21 ERA on his way to 21 saves. Since being called up to West Tenn, he's put up respectable numbers in a very limited number of innings.
After being a very marginal minor-leaguer in his first two seasons (5.05 ERA in 73 IP), for some indescernible reason Campusano started pitching much better in limited action in 2005 (2.45 ERA in 29 IP in low-A) and seems to have improved just as dramatically in 2006-- largely by improving his BB/9 and K/9 rates considerably.
However, because of the small sample size (he's only pitched really well in his last 70 IP) and because he's pitched a little above the level of his competition, it seems like it's still too early to consider Campusano a top prospect. He is one of the more intriguing Diamond Jaxx pitchers, however, and it will be fun to watch his progress over the course of the season.
Rocky Cherry, RHP (26 yrs, 11 months)
4-1, 1.89 ERA
47.2 IP, 40 H, 10 ER, 3 HR, 14 BB, 48 K
Even though Cherry is nearly 27 years old, this is his first full season at AA. After struggling in High A Daytona in 2004 (5.20 ERA in 124 IP), Cherry pitched only 9 innings in West Tenn in 2005-- which was his total output for the entire season. Without knowing for sure, I'm guessing that Cherry suffered a pretty significant injury, which has made him a little old for his league.
To his credit, Cherry seems to be making the most of his time in AA. His K and BB rates are outstanding, as are his WHIP and ERA. I wonder if some of his success might be attributed to his move to the bullpen. Before this season, 39 of his career 48 minor league games were starts. This season, he's pitched all 30 games in relief.
A number of West Tenn pitchers have already been promoted this season (Carlos Marmol, Randy Wells, Thomas Atlee, and Clay Rapada), I wouldn't be surprised if Cherry, because of his age and success rate, joins some of them at Iowa later this season.
Sean Gallagher, RHP (20 yrs, 7 months)
4-2, 2.60 ERA
34.2 IP, 29 H, 10 ER, 0 HR, 23 BB, 36 K
Gallagher is, by far, the youngest pitcher on the West Tenn staff, and is one of the Cubs' top pitching prospects.
Gallagher started 2006 at High-A Daytona, but was promoted after posting a 2.30 ERA in 78 IP. It was a bit of a risk for the Cubs to promote him to AA at only 20 years old, but Gallagher has mostly responded, keeping his ERA below 3 and keeping the ball in the ballpark-- 0 HRs allowed in 34 IP. The only concern this season has been a really alarming BB/9 rate in AA-- 5.97/9.
If Gallagher can bring his BB/9 rate down, there's little reason to believe he can continue to be successful. In his first two pro seasons (2004 and 2005), Gallagher pitched a total of 185 innings, posting a 2.77 ERA and very solid peripherals: 7.34 H/9, 0.53 HR/9, 3.21 BB/9, 9.23 K/9, WHIP 1.17.
Other than the high BB/9 rate at West Tenn, Gallagher has kept mostly in-line with his career front-line and periperhal statistics. It will be very interesting to see how the rest of his season at West Tennessee plays out-- if he can finish the second-half strong, he will likely stay at the top of the class of Cubs' pitching prospects.
Lincoln Holdzkam, RHP (24 yrs, 4 months)
1-1, 4.26 ERA
6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 4 K
Holdzkam is one of the arms that came over from Florida in the Todd Wellemeyer trade. I think he's been injured for most of the season, as he's pitched only 4 games at West Tenn. The MiLB site lists him as having pitched 4 games for the AZL Cubs as well. In any case, he's only pitched a handful of innings this year.
His career stats at www.thebaseballcube.com seem screwy, too, so it's hard to get a bead on Holdzkam's career. From what I can tell, he has really high career BB/9 rates and K/9 rates. The rest of his stats seem to be so skewed with data errors that I can't quite make sense of them.
It does appear he missed all of 2004, and with apparent injuries this season, Holdzkam seems like he has a really live arm but is a real risk to stay healthy (man, doesn't that sound familiar?)
Juan Mateo, RHP (23 yrs, 7 months)
6-4, 2.50 ERA
75.2 IP, 63 H, 21 ER, 6 HR, 22 BB, 54 K
Signed as an undrafted free-agent out of the Dominican Republic, Mateo seems to have a bright future. He was very good last season as a 22 year-old at High-A Daytona, posting a 3.21 ERA in 109 IP. He's pitched well at each level he's played, posting a career ERA of 3.36 with solid primary peripherals: 0.58 HR/9; 2.49 BB/9; 9.03 K/9, WHIP 1.18.
Mateo began his career as a reliever, but transitioned to a starting pitcher last season
and has started 14 of his 15 games this year. He has managed to keep his BB/9 low (2.62/9) but has had his K/9 rate drop considerably (6.43/9) in his first season in AA. It is likely too early to tell if that drop will be a significant indicator in his future success.
If Mateo continues to pitch well this season, considering his history and his age (he turns 24 in September), he reasonably projects to having success at higher levels of play.
J.R. Mathes, LHP (24 yrs, 8 months)
8-4, 3.22 ERA
103.1 IP, 104 H, 37 ER, 6 HR, 19 BB, 73 K
Drafted by the Cubs out of Western Michingan University, Mathes is easily having his best professional season. After putting up pedestrian numbers as a 23 year-old in High-A Daytona (4.49 ERA in 132 IP) last year, Mathes has lowered his ERA by over 25% this season at a higher level of play.
His peripherals, however, make me skeptical that he will continue with such a low ERA. While he's shown great control (2.26 BB/9 career, 1.66 BB/9 in 2006), his H/9 (10.36 career, 9.06 in 2006) tells me he's not fooling lots of hitters. On the other hand, he has lowered his H/9 considerably in 2006 and kept a strong HR/9 rate (0.61 career, 0.52 in 2006). His K/9 rate this year, (6.36) is only moderate.
Considering his shaky career peripherals, and that he's a tick above the age of his competition, it seems Mathes probably has more to prove in order to project him out more favorably.
Carmen Pignatiello, LHP (23 yrs, 10 months)
2-1, 2.89 ERA
46.2 IP, 42 H, 15 ER, 2 HR, 16 BB, 55 K
The Cubs selected Pignatiello out of high school in the 20th Round of the draft. He pitched very well as a starter in Low A ball, then stalled a little with back-to-back mid 4-point ERAs in 2003 at high-A Daytona (4.38) and in 2004 at West Tenn (4.56).
Making 6 of his 16 games out of the bullpen in 2005, Pignatiello pitched a very well at West Tenn (2.68 ERA in 80 IP) before being promoted to Iowa. Pitching mostly in relief (17 of 22 games), Pignatiello struggled at AAA, giving up a 5.51 ERA in 47 IP.
In 2006, except for one start, he's pitched the entire season at West Tenn in relief and has done very well. His BB/9 rates are right in line with his career numbers, and his K/9 this season (10.62) is almost two and a half Ks higher than an already solid career line of 8.28.
Still on the young side (he will turn 24 in mid-September), I am optimistic about Pignatiello's development.
Brian Reith, RHP (28 yrs, 5 months)
0-0, 0.00 ERA
Reith has kicked around a number of ML organizations and pitched parts of three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.
At 28 and a half and pitching at AA, Reith no longer projects as anything more than a replacement-level pitcher.
Chris Shaver, LHP (24 yrs, 11 months)
5-5, 2.20 ERA
94 IP, 80 H, 23 ER, 3 HR, 34 BB, 85 K
Selected by the Cubs in the 4th Round of the 2004 Draft, Shaver is a tall (6'7") Lefty from Virginia.
He began the season at High-A Daytona, but was promoted very quickly after throwing 8 shut-out innings. Since his promotion to West Tenn, he has pitched really well. Allowing a HR/9 of 0.28 and a WHIP of 1.21, Shaver has done a solid job of keeping the ball in the park and himself out of trouble. He's also considerably improved his K/9 this season-- 8.13 versus a career rate of 6.28, meaning he's missing a lot more bats than in previous years.
The biggest concerns for Shaver are a somewhat high BB/9 rate (3.72 career, though only 3.26 in 2006) and that, at almost 25, he's pitching against a lot of players younger than him. His BB/9 rate has improved every season, however, which is an ecnouraging sign.
If Shaver continues to pitch well at AA, I wouldn't be surprised to see him promoted to Iowa before the season ends.
Andy Shipman, RHP (24 yrs, 9 months)
0-1, 2.89 ERA
9.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 10 K
Shipman began the season at Iowa and posted a very respectable, but probably misleading ERA (3.13) over 37.1 IP. Misleading because Shipman gave up alot of hits (10.92/9) and walks (4.61/9), which created a really high WHIP of 1.66. In a small sample size since his return to West Tenn (which is where he pitched last year, 3.17 ERA in 65 IP), he has done well.
Shipman has been used at times as a closer, amassing a total of 34 saves in just over 3 seasons. He has an impressive career K/9 (9.37), so it appears he has decent stuff. Coming into 2006, his career BB/9 was a little high (4.10) and his struggles getting the ball over the plate at Iowa aren't encouraging. However, Shipman has a solid career minor-league ERA (3.56 in 116 IP) while pitching at or just a tick-above the age of his competition. If he can improve his control, he has a favorable chance at contributing at higher levels of play.
Carlos Vasquez, LHP (23 yrs, 7 months)
1-2, 4.39 ERA
26.2 IP, 17 H, 13 ER, 1 HR, 15 BB, 32 K
Vasquez began the year at High-A Daytona, and was promoted after posting a very impressive 1.57 ERA in 34 IP. His performance so far at AA seems like a mixed bag-- pedestrian ERA, but very good H/9 (5.75) and K/9 (10.79) rates. His downfall seems to be a very high BB/9 rate of 5.06/9. His career BB/9 is reasonable (3.66), especially considering his age at some of the levels he's pitched at, so it seems highly possible that he can correct his BB/9 numbers at West Tenn.
There are no stats listed for him in 2001 or 2005, so I wonder about his injury history. 2006 is also the first season he's been used as a reliever. He started 66 of his first 67 professional games and has posted a career 3.81 ERA in 359 IP.
His apparent injury in 2005 seems to have set him back a little, as he previously was pitching well at each level, despite being slightly younger than the competition.
It's also interesting to note that after posting a very good K/9 (9.39) in his first pro season (as a 17 year-old), his K/9 rate slipped considerably: 7.62 in 2002, 5.70 in 2003, 5.81 in 2004. Combined between Daytona and West Tenn, Vasquez has been flashing very good stuff in 2006, registering a 9.30 K/9 rate in 61 IP.
As one of the younger pitchers on the West Tenn squad, it will be interesting to monitor his success in the second half.
As with the Iowa Cubs roster, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx seem to have a few exciting pitchers worth noting and, in general, a really solid staff.
Of the bunch, Sean Gallagher seems to be the most impressive of the group, and one of the top prospects in the Cubs organization.
Juan Mateo, at 23 years old, probably grades out next in this staff.
The next tier of prospects include two 23-year olds: Carmen Pignatiello and Carlos Vasquez; and another who just turned 24 (Edwardo Campusano). These three guys have a little shakier history than Gallagher and Mateo, but seem to have really live arms.
The next tier of pitchers, Federico Baez and Chris Shaver are, at 24 (almost 25), less promising but are both pitching very well in AA. I'd also put 24 year-old Andy Shipman in this group based on his numbers at Iowa, in the handful of innings his pitched at West Tenn and in his solid professional career.
I'm less wild about J.R. Mathes and Lincoln Holdzkam-- Mathes because of his spotty record and age (he and Shaver are three months apart in age, but Shaver is pitching much better), and Holdzkam because of his health.
Lastly-- Rocky Cherry at nearly 27 seems too old to project very highly, Brian Reith is not a prospect, and Bobby Brownlie (who's nearing 26) seems to have fallen apart.